Even a very simple Indian food has a distinct flavor and taste because of its subtle yet aromatic spices. They also enhance the look of the dish with their lovely texture and color.The posts under the label “Indian Spices” is an attempt to educate and familiarize my non-Indian readers about Indian spices and herbs. It will contain information on their texture, taste and usage in Indian cooking.
Today I am writing about “Dry red chilly”, also know as “Lal Mirchi” in Hindi and “Kaindha Millagai” in Tamil. Every Indian kitchen’s “Masala Dabbha” (Spice box) will have a space allocated for this beautiful red spice. There is a picture of my masala dabbha on my blog header.
Dry red chilly, as the name suggests is the dried version of red chilly grown majorly in Asian countries like India, Vietnam, China. Farmers dry them under the sun for days together until they get a crispy-outside. They are either long or have a short umbrella like shape comprising of a stalk, red membrane and small seeds. The stalk is always removed while cooking and the heat majorly comes from the light brown seeds present within the membrane. In Indian cooking, they are added to the piping hot oil by breaking them into two halves and then cooked with further ingredients like mustard seeds, urad dhal, fenugreek, asafoetida, curry leaves, cummin seeds. The tempered oil has a sharp spicy kick from the chilly and is perfect for making thadka (tempering) for dhal, upma, buttermilk & raita, South-Indian chutneys and rasam. A maximum of 3-4 chillies are used for tempering. They are available in all the Indian grocery shops in US/UK/ Europe. They are ground to a fine powder after further drying at home and used as chilli powder. The Indian chilly powder are much more spicier than the ones available here in US.
I always remember this golden rule shared by my amma while cooking with chilli powder. Double the amount of coriander powder while adding it to any gravy containing chilli powder. It follows 1:2 ratio. This enhances the flavor of the dish and also lowers the spice level.
The red colored fiery hot chilli contains capsaicin, an alkaloid substance and that makes them taste hot. Capsaicin signals the brain to release “Substance P”,a neurotransmitter when saliva mixes with the chilly and its powder. The brain understands that the body is in pain, the heart beats rapidly and starts secreting endorphin, a natural pain killer.